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The Rise of Tech Camps

The Community College catalog arrived with the cover page announcing a “STEM Summer of Discovery.”  It seems like robotics, video game design, electronics prototyping, animation and movie making camps are growing in number and, let’s hope, in quality!

The catalog coincided with a chance to sit down with roboticist Marcel Bergerman. Marcel is a Systems Scientist with the Field Robotics Center at the Robotics Institute.  Through his eyes I got a glimpse of some of the careers that will be there for our children:  manufacturing robotics, robotics in agriculture, medical robotics, self-driving cars and delivery vehicles, mechatronics, robotics that repair and construct the infrastructure of our communities, robots who interact with at cash registers or service centers, MEMs, robots in the hospital who can analyze images and deliver medications. It is not simply a matter of profitable careers, Marcel described engineering and STEM disciplines as “contributing to the welfare of humankind.”  He is struck by the apparent disparity in a society that raises up to hero status rare successes in sports and film and downplays a life in science and technology that seeks to make a difference in the world and offers far more opportunities for success.

Thomas Friedman warns our children’s generation not to prepare for any profession that can be outsourced, automated or digitalized.  Parents are listening, even as schools are sometimes slow to respond, and tech camps are filling at record paces.  Marcel, when not focused on navigation and control robotics technology, is the cofounder of GreenE Academy, with his wife and CMU engineer Maria Yamanaka.  GreenE offers technology programs for Middle School (Grades 4-8) in Lego NXT, VEX Cortex and RobotC, and Video Game design. The programs provide fun hands-on tools to help kids gain a sense of mastery over science and technology.  The stress is on innovation with room for making lots of mistakes and learning from them. His desire is for his students to embrace technology and contemplate where it came from, the thousands of hours that went into its invention, the number of inventions combined, the properties of materials and all of the engineering processes that went into making it. Robotics and Video Game design provide an atmosphere of play and an environment that fuels an inner motivation to learn.

For those who are local, Grow a Generation is offering several camp activities.

Grade 3-5
July 8-12 * 9:30 am — 3:00 pm
Summer Camps @ Baden Academy 2013
Morning:  Groma Robots: Hit Your Mark * Join Dr. Ellen to learn basic robot programming and design a skit to interact with their robot on film! GROMA robots are an excellent introduction to technology with a simple icon based control center, radio control, and dead reckoning concepts learned as they play. Kids also learn some theater and film concepts like script writing, blocking, and staging!
Afternoon: Remote Control Mania  * Join Bricks4Kidz for afternoons designed especially for kids who love remote controls and seeing their creations in motion. With the use of LEGO® wireless remote controls campers will build vehicles, machines, and other inventions, then use battery packs and motors to make them move.  Kids will LOVE this challenging and exciting camp.

Grade 3-5
July 15-19 * 9:30 am — 3:00 pm
Summer Camps @ Baden Academy 2013
Morning: Video Game Design with Scratch * Join Dr. Ellen and use Scratch to program your own marvelous and quirky worlds using an icon based language (you drag symbolic blocks rather than type code). Kids will explore and create magical landscapes and zany characters while they learn the basics of programming and graphic design.
Afternoon: Shelebrate the Marvelous, Quirky World of Shel Silverstein * Lions…, Giraffes…, and Babbits… Oh my! Join Miss Julie Preffer and Miss Taylor Bianco for wily limericks, poems that make you laugh and creative writing all centered around award-winning author Shel Silverstein!

Grade 3-5
July 22-26 * 9:30 am — 3:00 pm
Summer Camps @ Baden Academy 2013
Morning: Zany Animal Documentaries with Alice 2 * Join Dr. Ellen to create a creature using Alice 2 animation software. Will it be cute or ferocious?  What does it do in the wild?  What fun facts can you tell us about your creature? Kids will create a documentary to enter into the CS2N Summer of Learning Nature Documentary competition.
Afternoon: Harry Potter Camp * Join Miss Preffer and Miss Bianco for a week at Hogwarts! Get sorted and explore Astronomy, Care of Magical Creatures, Herbology, and Potions and learn the science of how they connect to our Muggle world!  Join us and explore the amazing world of Harry, Ron, Hermione and of course, You Know Who…

Grade 3-5
July 29-Aug 2 * 9:30 am — 3:00 pm
Summer Camps @ Baden Academy 2013
Morning: Becoming Superheroes * Join Dr. Ellen to immerse ourselves in stories of young heroes in our
 world today.  Learn to ‘photoshop’ your own green screen photo and add a few superhero tools to create and transform your own picture of yourself. Kids will be invited to explore childhood dreams and the problems of our world that need their gifts.
Afternoon: Mining and Crafting * Join Bricks4Kidz and experience the world of Minecraft with LEGO®bricks in this fun camp! Kids will start by creating their shelters and some of the mobs, critters and tools using LEGO® bricks.  Campers will face new challenges each day, building motorized Bricks 4 Kidz models and creating key elements from the popular Minecraft game. At the end of the week, all MINERS AND CRAFTERS will go home with a custom mini-figure!


AGES 8-14
Aug 5-9   9:30 – 12:00
Space Robots @ Community College of Beaver County
Bring your Mindstorm NXT (or reserve one of the classroom kits) and design your robot to visit a few moons, hone your terraforming skills, and compare your fictional exploration of planet Pantheon with Curiosity’s discoveries on the planet Mars. Robo campers help transform Pantheon into an environment where humanoids can live and thrive. STEM education is a fundamental part of the Terraformers experience, expounding science, technology, engineering and math concepts in an engaging ‘hands-on minds-on’ environment.   Register by calling CCBC at 724-480-3443.

Grades 2-12
Grow a Gen Labs  IN YOUR HOME!
August 18-23 10 am
Join Dr. Ellen each morning at 10 am in a Google Hangout for an hour of training and feedback as your home lab works to complete an entry for the CS2N Scratch programming challenge to create a creature and make a Nature Documentary. Will your creature be cute or ferocious? Will you prepare a documentary on your own, or invite a team of friends to work with you?  Only $25 for this inaugural lab program.  Email [email protected] to register.

Have fun this summer!


Other STEM camps in the area

GreenE Academy

Franklin Center of Beaver County Summer Camps

Penn State Beaver

Robert Morris STEM



SAR/Medical Advancement Camp for Boy Scouts

Dream, Design, Build Camp for High School Girls

Carnegie Science Center


Online STEM Summer Competition

CS2N Summer of Learning


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1 comment

    • Monique Urick on June 12, 2013 at 10:22 am
    • Reply

    Hi Ellen… Congratulations on finishing and publishing the book. I can’t wait to read it!

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